2017 Reflection

2017 has been an interesting year. Looking back on my 2016 Year in Review post, I basically started off the same way. But honestly, if a year isn't filled with ups and downs, valleys and peaks, has life been fully lived that year? The joys gave me motivation through the hard times, and the hard times taught me important lessons. They were all a necessary part of the year, and looking back, no matter what.

I honestly can't tell you what my goals or "word of the year" were for 2016. Partly because I'm not sure how well I lived them out if I can't remember them, and mostly because I can't find the journal where I wrote them all down in (my 2017 journal ended before 2017 ended, and it probably made its way into the dark corner of my bedroom somewhere!)

I did have one BIG goal that I set early on in 2017 (in January) that I finally accomplished in November, and THAT goal has taught me more this year than I think anything else. You have to understand that I never considered myself a runner or a sporty person, growing up or even through college and the few years after college. I have, on multiple occasions, sat on a field or sand volley ball court picking flowers or, yes, building a sand castle (and yes, the later one was in college). I danced but didn't play intramural sports in college, but did use the sidelines of my friends' intramural games as a balance beam to practice my cartwheels. I went to the gym for Zumba and Hip Hop Fitness, but never joined friends on their runs around campus. In fact, I took beginning jogging as my fitness class freshman year at Carolina, and hated it with a burning passion.

It was just never the right time to run. I don't think I was ready for what God would teach me through it. But after moving into the city, having a regular 9-to-5 and roommates (shoutout to Jackie G.!) who ran and set goals for themselves running, something changed. I wanted a challenge, but had to acknowledge that I had to start from the beginning, and actually try. So in January of 2016, I took it waaay back, started with one of those Couch to 5K programs, and tried. I ran/walked 1, 2, and finally 3.1 miles for about 6 months, and then ran a 5K in June. I didn't know a lot about running or what to wear or how to train, I just knew that patience and persistence through pain got me to accomplish something I hadn't done yet, basically running more than a mile and enjoying it. And while the next 6 months would see a lot of changes (see 2016 Year in Review) and not a lot of running, I knew there was something more to be done there. So on January 1st, 2017, I put on running shoes and ran for a mile. And I made it a goal to run more regularly. But I needed a concrete goal, something tangible to work towards, so two weeks later and a couple (hundred) dollars less, I signed up to run a half-marathon in November 2017.

And on November 5th, 2017, I did it.

2017 Wine and Dine Half-Marathon

2017 Wine and Dine Half-Marathon

Running taught me so much this year.

  • It allowed me to set such a long term goal in a way I hadn't before, that required me to really trust God that I could do this, and diligently work towards it
  • It taught me patience. I started at 1-mile. I had to get to 13.1 miles. I had to go slowly and consistently to get there, and it took all 11-months I had to train to get there
  • It brought me space. Space to clear my head, space to talk to God, space to run through and deal with emotions or situations instead of burying them
  • It has helped with my anxiety. It hasn't fixed it, but it helps to break me out of my head, and has shown me that learning techniques to help your mental health is important
  • It showed me exercise can be fun; running can be fun. Did I ever envision myself spending a Saturday morning running 10 miles, waking up before dawn, eating a runners meal the night before and spending Saturday afternoon in recovery? Absolutely not. But I also never envisioned the friendship I got to form with my running mate Katie or the joy of running through Pandora-World of Avatar as the sun rose that day
About 5 miles in, in front of the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom

About 5 miles in, in front of the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom

This turned more into a reflection on running than a year in review, but I think that is because this was one of those goals that, to me, was as impossible as getting into a Ph.D. program was in 2016. I seriously, for awhile in college and right after, didn't think I had what it took to get in. But I realized it was because it wasn't the right time then, nor the exact right path. And before 2017, before being where I was school/career wise, I guess running wasn't the right goal yet. It was a goal that had to develop when the timing was right, I just couldn't see it yet.

You know the old saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?"

I guess I'm the one looking back and chuckling now, God :D

Check that one of the bucket list

Check that one of the bucket list

Trust in His timing

God often uses the experiences in our lives to teach us lessons.  The answers to our prayers, the yeses, nos, wait and see all can be used to help us grow. I think God is often trying to teach me patience and trust in His plan. I've chosen a career where the payout is long term, because I will literally be in school forever, so I have to trust that each step of the way is contributing to the long term goal of my vocation. I've seen countless friends enter into relationships and get married, and while that area of my life is still in writing, I've learned patience and trust in God's long term plan (still working on that one), and I've seen how the opportunities in my life and where God is calling me to serve may not have been possible if I were walking a different path.

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Life Lately: March

Since I last posted, I went on Spring break for a week, saw Beauty and the Beast, took a policy and advocacy trip to Tallahassee (Florida state capital), celebrated my 27th birthday, went to Disney, had a few major assignments/presentations due, and watched the Tarheels win the National Championship. March (and the first week of April) was a whirlwind.

Here's a little photo rundown:

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Why I Run

This morning I did something I never thought I would be able to do: I ran 5 miles.

When I say that I have never been a runner, I mean that I was never I runner. I DREADED the timed mile run days in gym during elementary and middle school.

I loved soccer when I was little, but I tended to play defense because I couldn't deal with running the length of the field. Granted, I had sports-induced asthma and chronic allergies as a kid, which made sustained cardio difficult at time. I was active through dance, but never got into running.

In college and post-college, I danced and exercised sporadically but nothing consistent. Trying to go on a run would just bring dread and pain, and I never really knew what I was doing. I really never learned to "run" properly, and I would just start, regardless of form or pacing. I was also very self-conscious about running. I ran slowly and I was very aware of all the other more fit and better runners around me, especially when running around a college campus.

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Why I haven't blogged as often

As I've mention recently, I've been getting more into the work of author and researcher Dr. Brene Brown. She focuses a lot of her work on the most core and essential human emotions and experiences, and how they can sometimes be flip sides of the same coin: shame, love, joy, worry, etc. They all come down in core (or at least how I interpret them) to vulnerability. In reading one of her books about whole-hearted living, The Gifts of Imperfection: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, I began thinking of my own struggles with perfection, and owning "being smart" as a core personality trait. I'll go into more on that later, but through that experience I realized that I don't think my blog or what I have to say is ever "good enough" so why bother posting it. But let's be real, this is a creative outlet and nothing more. I'm not a "blogger", I'm not trying to make money or have pictures that look perfect. I just like sharing my thoughts, my experiences and some creative ideas I may have from time to time. I'm in no way shape or form a theologian or even remotely experienced in working in ministry. I'm a Catholic girl in her mid-twenties in graduate school, and this is just my life right now and what I'm thinking and experiencing.

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Disney Crazed

I'm not going to lie, one perk of choosing a graduate school program in Florida is the proximity to Orlando, specifically Disney World. I grew up in the Golden Age of Disney Animation, watching and listening to the soundtracks of Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Pocahontas and Little Mermaid.  I still remember details from our first Disney trip when I was in Kindergarten, like my Ariel doll that say next to me and Grandmom on the monorail. We've always been a Disney family, and I'm fully embracing that side now that I'm back in Florida and an Annual Passholder. From eating and drinking our way through EPCOT, spending time with the animals in Animal Kingdom and taking time to go to the special events in Magic Kingdom during the holidays, the pass is well worth the cost and the 1.5 hour drive to get there. I'm going to share more detailed Disney posts in the future, but for now, here are a few fun pictures below!

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A Lenten Reflection

"But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

-Matthew 6:6

As I was praying before Ash Wednesday mass yesterday, before I even realized the contents of the Gospel reading, I was thinking about shame and why we sometimes hide our faith.  I've been reading a lot about vulnerability and whole-hearted living, a focus of the work of storyteller and researcher Brene Brown (more about her work later), I was thinking about shame in response to the things we keep private about our faith. There is a difference, I believe, between keeping our prayer, fasting and alms giving secret in order to be humble and not boastful, and keeping our faith private because we are scared of societies judgement.

Sometimes we hide our ashes, wipe them off so we don't get stranger stares at work or while walking across campus. I often fear the judgement of society or worry about what someone may say to me,  whether it be a mere question I just don't know the answer to or an accusation I have to refute and stand-up against. We all fear the unknown and the exposure of our souls when we wear a mark upon our head. Maybe we feel ashamed, shamed by the judgement of society, shamed by not knowing or understanding fully what we participate in or shame for standing out in a way that is countercultural to society. I know that sometimes I rather just not deal with the questions; I'd rather be left alone and remain anonymous.

Why is that? We do we (and I mean me) hid our keep concealed an area of our lives that we should graciously share with the world instead of hiding. Do we feel unguarded and vulnerable when we expose that side of ourselves because what society may judge or shame God rejoices in? How do we lean in to the vulnerability, wear our faith like a badge of honor instead of a scarlet A, regardless of how society views it.

I find it easier in the bubble, easier within the space of like-minded people like at my Catholic student center in undergraduate or in my Catholic school while teaching. It becomes more challenging as we step further into society, but it remain important, if not more than in our bubble, to bear our faith around those who may not share in it. How do we take more ownership of our faith and live our faith publically, not to be boastful as the Gospel speaks of, but to also not be ashamed or scared of what society thinks? This has been on my mind a lot recently, as I work in a field with many diverse settings and individuals. I found my self shying away from mentioning going to church on the weekend when someone asks how my weekend was, or shying away from controversial topics as to not stir the pot.

I'm challenging myself this Lent to not shy away or not hide my faith. I want to keep the Gospel reading in mind, to not be boastful and use my faith to fuel pride, but I also don't want to be ashamed to admit that I spent my evening in Bible study, and welcome any questions that may come. This scares me, because there is a potential for social isolation for not fitting into a norm, but I think it will help me to be a clearer and truer version of myself. I went to night mass, so I didn't have my ashes on for very long, but I'm going to try, and I encourage you as well, to keep your "ashes" visible this Lent.

Peace from Momma Mary

Happy January 1st! Today is both the Feast of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and also the 50th World Day of Peace, first celebrated by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1967.

Pope Francis reminds us that while we live in a broken world, "violence is not the cure for our broken world… " but that we still have peace and mercy as options available to us. And as the song states, it must start with us, it must start at home.

During the homily at mass tonight, the Monsignor connected peace to the celebration and reflection of Mary's role in the birth of Christ. In reviewing the Hail Mary, the priest pointed out the phrase "blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus". He pointed out that not only does the phrase encompass Mary's holiness but also her peace. While I had never heard of this interpretation, the priest went on to discuss how Mary is a vessel of peace, bringing into the world the ultimate Prince of Peace.  During the Gospel reading, the shepherds relay to Mary what the angels have told them about her Son. The scriptures state that Mary "kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." She reacted peacefully, taking in what was told to her to heart and reflecting to understand the meaning. Her peaceful reaction should be a model for all of us, a way to take in what we hear and what we see and reflect on what God is saying to us or teaching us in the moment. Blessed is She presented a beautiful devotion today on the importance of reflective listening, and slowing down to hear wheat God is saying to us. Listening to God's words to our hearts will allow us to develop inner peace, furthermore allowing us to project that peace out into the world.

 For we must remember what St. Teresa of Calcutta told us, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

2016 in Review

2016 had its up and downs, for the world and for me. This was no doubt one of the more challenging years we have all faced, but in choosing to take each event as a lesson that we learned from,  we can enter 2017 with a spirit of growth, ready to move forward. 2016 brought a major life change for me. My mantra for 2016 was to "say yes" and to practice self care. While those still need to be worked on in the upcoming year, those two goals helped me to start being more conscious about what I ate, had me run my first race (just a 5K, but still!) and had me say yes to travel, friends, and most importantly, a goal I set for myself a long time ago that I never thought I'd achieve, going back to school to get my Ph.D. 2016 was quite the journey, and now that I'm settled in Florida, I'm looking forward to what 2017 has to offer! Here's a little snippet of my 2016.

January started and ended with travel! I headed to Missouri to visit a school and saw friends in St. Louis, then interviewed in Tampa and had an unexpected weekend adventure after getting stranded there during Winter Storm Jonas, visited South Carolina for a day and ended January in Nebraska.
College Friends at 4 Hands Brewery in St. Louis
View from the pier in Clearwater, Florida
February started on a sad note with the loss of my grandfather, but also included time with family, snow, Skype interviews and travels to Ohio for interviewing and visiting old friends.
Philly Ph.D.'s in Ohio
Favorite running stop view from the Art Museum Steps
March included a trip to NC for my brother's CD release show, celebrating my birthday in Philly, Florida and Charlotte, and finally visiting Gainesville and deciding on UF for my graduate school program!
Promoting Highway Rider with the Bestie!
Celebrating 26 with Family
Easter Sunday in N.C.
April saw my best friend Meghan visit Philly, the NCAA tournament and a Mother's Day tea with Grandmom
Philly Day with Meghan
Mother's Day Tea with the Queen (lookin' good at 97!) 
May was wedding month, traveling to North Carolina and New Orleans to celebrate the unions of two wonderful friends, along with some start of summer shenanigans in Philly!
Wedding Ready in N.C.

Beer Gardens and Best Friends

Surviving the heat in New Orleans with a cold Sno ball
June brought summer celebrations, nights on roof deck pools, the Color Run 5K, a bachelorette party and my last week working in a Philadelphia school.
Summer Nights on the roof with pups
Celebrating crossing the finish line for the Color Run 5K

Celebrating our favorite Bachelorette!
July was a big month! We kicked it off with the wedding weekend of my roommate combined with Fourth of July weekend, and filled in the rest of the days with happy hours, beer gardens, beach trips and my last day of work and move from Philly! I ended up the busy month with a trip to Nashville with my sister to visit my brother and take in Music City!
This photo says everything. What a wedding!

Summer Happy Hours are the best Happy Hours
Last Day of Work Lunch with the best ladies
August saw a girls trip to Asheville, a week in Hilton Head, a move to Florida and the start of graduate school, whew!
Sunday afternoons poolside

Grovepark Inn and Spa

Cruisin' Hilton Head
September was a month for settling in. I got used to my new apartment, new classes and new friends. I went to my first Gator football game and visited Florida's natural springs with my old college friend Christie. Oh, and I lived through my first Florida hurricane!
The Swamp
Ginnie Springs
October consisted mostly of graduate school work (midterm season), my second hurricane and also a girls trip to St. Augustine.
Anastasia Island State Park
November was very busy, with a trip to Tampa for the Florida Association of School Psychologist Conference, a trip to Orlando for the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival and then a trip home to N.C. for Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!!)
First Year students at the FASP Conference
Food and Wine Fest Squad Goals
Thanksgiving Crew Selfie
December felt very short, as I headed back to Florida to wrap up graduate school work and celebrated the end of the first semester with my cohort, visited Disney again for the holiday celebrations, saw my friend Christie for the second time since I moved to Florida (!!!) and then headed home fro Christmas, including a visit to Philly and a homebody Christmas with my family.
Christmas in Philly
Christmas in Charlotte

Looking back, while 2016 was trying, it also brought a lot of amazing adventures, new experiences and quality time with family and friends. All I can ask for out of 2017 is a chance for more adventures with the people I love and a chance to continue to grow and follow God's plan!

Equip Me, Lord

In our Young Adults group tonight, we were reading Saturday's Gospel for the Feast of St. Andrew. The Gospel is from Matthew and it tell of the mission of the twelve, when after seeing a crowd filled with disease and illness, Jesus' 

"...Heart was moved with pity for them because they were trouble and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" 
(Matthew 9:36)

After this, he summons the twelve disciplines and gives them authority to go out into ministry and drive out unclean spirits and cure illness. Somehow we got on the topic of giving and receiving, and when is it the right time to act. Some people were stressing the point of needing to fill your own cup before you can pour out to others, while others were discussing how through serving from our brokenness, we are not only giving to others but also giving to ourselves.

It got me thinking about my own giving, and not just in the sense of service work, but giving of myself, giving of Christ to others. I very often fall into the camp of feeling like I never know enough to share, or I never know what to share or how to share it correctly. I don't have it polished and perfected enough to put out in the world, either in person or through this blog, and so I don't do it. It’s a reflection of a struggle within myself, that I am hesitant to produce a product that is less than perfect and present it to the world. But someone in group tonight brought up the point that we don't learn from individuals who are perfect. Those are not the stories we are drawn to. We are drawn to those who share a common struggle, whom we can relate to, and whose lives we can learn from. I think that is something that makes the saints so powerful. They are incredibly holy men and women, and yet their stories are filled with hardship and brokenness. Look at St. Teresa of Calcutta. She went through such an extended period of darkness, of not feeling Christ's presence and of sometimes doubting, yet she is one of the most holy women of our time. Just because we don’t feel prepared or perfect doesn't mean we can't serve or share.

This whole thought process was making me think of this space, this blog. I write so infrequently one, due to time, but also due to the fact that I feel like I don’t have anything good enough to say. That no one will read it, so why bother. But I want to end that. I like to write, and I am trying to find my voice, though it isn't perfect. So why not share it all here, why not start giving of myself and my stories, because I have received so much through Christ and as the last line of the Gospel passage reflects, 

"Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give".

I don't feel prepared, but as I opened my Bible to write, a note card fell out with a quote I heard in college "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called," and I have faith that what I need to serve with be provided for by God.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other" 
-St. Teresa of Calcutta

As I sit here in Florida, my heart breaks for Charlotte, my city. My heartbreaks for those who feel the pain of injustice. My heartbreaks for those who are scared. My heartbreaks for those who don't know what the best solution is. My heart breaks for my beautiful city and for all of those cities and families and communities affected by injustices.